Geek Girls Rule! #435 – Why Do We Do It: Fanfic

Ok, so I have had four days of family emergency looming over my head, and I need a happiness break like whoa.  I can’t get into it now, but it’s got my entire family agitated, even some of the distant parts, and I’m about ready to scream.  So, I thought this would be great time to write about things I love and why I do those things.

The first thing I want to talk about is fanfic.  I know that for a lot of people fanfic has a, shall we say, unsavory reputation.  And yeah, there’s a lot of smutfic out there, but that is not first and foremost why I, and a lot of other folks, like it.

The major thing about fanfic, especially nowadays, but really all along, is that it allows us to address discrepancies in representation.

I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but an awful lot of SF/F and comic book media is pretty darn white.  And I mean, white like a Klan rally sometimes.

And no, I don’t think that analogy is a bridge too far, cough, Nick Spencer, cough.

Women, people of color, queer folks, trans people, all of us have spent the majority of our lives watching movies, TV and cartoons, and reading books and comics that feature Mighty Whitey, the heroically stubbled savior, saving the world.  While women simper and and everyone else is depicted as a villain, or “knows their place,” usually as a sidekick, or grateful bystander.

I grew up reading Asimov, Lovecraft, Howard, Burroughs, Poe, Silverberg, and many, many other old cis het white dudes.  I discovered Madeline L’Engle, Tanith Lee, and Anne McCafferey on my own.  I was not introduced to Ursula K. Lequin, CJ Cherryh, or Andre Norton until my 20s.

As a child I watched Buck Rogers, in which, arguably, Wilma Dearing was the most competent character, though relegated to love interest time and again.  I watched the original Battlestar Galactica, which, as I’ve said before, no matter how good the drugs you’re on after surgery, just don’t.  Percocet cannot save the original BSG.  My believed Uhura on Star Trek was largely relegated to sitting at her console in her micro-mini skirt, and to the occasional love interest plot line.

In fanfic, fans of a work or genre can “fix” the lack of representation in off canon stories and art.  Kirk and Spock were the original slash fic pairing.  Because as annoying as the roles women find themselves relegated to are, at least we had those roles.  There was ZERO queer representation for the longest damn time.

And yeah, I admit, the opportunity to do something like, include women in key roles or adding all the POC who should be in a story set in HARLEM, or the queer folk who should be everywhere, is a big chunk of why I write fic.

Another reason, for me, not necessarily for everyone else, is that it’s relatively low pressure writing.  I can’t even try to get this stuff published.  So I can just write what flows naturally without having to worry about marketability or trying to get it published.  If I think it’s good enough to share, I slap it up on Archive of our Own.  If I don’t, it lives on my hard drive or a password protected Tumblr that exactly three people have the password to.

If I want to give Captain America a biracial gay boyfriend with combat-related PTSD who works as a bartender in a punk rock bar, I can do that.  I can have Cap talk about being bisexual, and how he loved Peggy, but also loves his boyfriend.  I can have the two of them work through nightmares and panic attacks together, because they both get it.

Several dudes have spent loads of pixels talking about Tony Stark’s PTSD issues, but I rarely see the same amount of airtime for Cap’s, because the character is pretty good at stuffing his feelings in a box, until he explodes for or five heavy bags.  But they’re there.  Though not written explicitly, I think Chris Evans does a fantastic job of letting shit through the cracks.

Anyway, yeah, fanfic is a relatively low pressure, relaxing (for me), means of addressing the lack of representation in mainstream media for women, POC, queer and trans folk, as well as a way of working through trauma and emotional wounds of your own.  But ultimately, there are as many reasons for writing fic as their are fic writers.  I can’t speak for anyone apart from myself.

So why do you guys do it?

Ok, that was creepy.  I think the owl that lives near our house just caught a rabbit.  Those of you who have heard rabbits killed will totally get what I’m talking about.  Ugh. Shudder.

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